Because of the Covid19 virus lockdown situation, London Shoes has obviously had to temporarily suspend the weekly jaunts out to the big ‘Smoke’.
Fortunately, during this current ‘lockdown’ period, ‘Shoes’ has still been able to post regular articles to its Website-Facebook & Twitter portals, by utilising material that had been collated but had not yet published.
However, this week’s publication ‘is’ actually a topic that London Shoes was able to get out there on-the-road and physically do, by incorporating the task into my ‘daily exercise’ activity – all because the subject matter in question was right on my ‘home turf’, in Romford within the London Borough of Havering.
So – this week’s London Shoes blog is all about the history of what was, for over 200 hundred years, Romford’s main industry and biggest employer…..the “Romford Brewery” !!!
The once iconic Romford Brewery was founded in 1708 by one Benjamin Wilson.
It originated as an extension to the already long standing ‘Star Inn’ that was situated in the old ‘High Street’ on the main road out of the City of London, that lead onwards towards Chelmsford, Colchester and eventually on to Norwich in the east.
The Star Inn was the ideal location to set-up a brewery, as it was located alongside the ‘River Rom’, allowing the brewery to take advantage of the river’s free flowing water, a necessity in the brewing process.
In 1799 the brewery was bought up by a reputable brewer by the name of ‘Edward Ind’.
With the opening of a mainline railway network at Romford in 1839 – travel and transportation of freight and people to and from the brewery, became much easier to manage, and allowed the business to expand rapidly. In fact, the brewery was so big that it even had its very own bespoke railway sidings connected to the main-line Romford Station.
In 1845 renowned London brewers Octavius & George Coope bought in to the business – and as a result, the brand name of ‘Ind Coope’ was born. By the early 1900’s the Romford Brewery employed over 450 people.
Fast forward several decades to the late 1960’s-early 1970’s the brewery employed over 1,000 workers and the site covered 20 acres.
One of the Romford Brewery’s most popular beers was ‘John Bull-Bitter’, named after the historic English farmer character – and his distinctive caricature logo displayed on the product.
However, in the late 60’s early 70’s real-ale started to become increasingly popular, and by the end of the 70’s there was a certain enthusiasm and kudos around the quality of real-ales in the market, particularly with the formation of CAMRA (Campaign for Real-Ale) organisation in the early 1970’s.
It’s probably fair to say that the Romford Brewery’s ‘John Bull Bitter’ didn’t always go down too well with the majority of the CAMRA enthusiasts – as it was often described as being too watery, and full of suds – and as a result, the popularity of the product started to fade, which in turn had an adverse impact on the Romford Brewery’s business.
Sadly, in 1993 the long standing Romford Brewery closed and was subsequently shut- down for good – causing an adverse economic and employment impact to the area.
So – my London Shoes quest this week was to try and track down any of the Brewery’s historic landmarks or fixtures or references that might still be in situ – and this is what I found.
Following the Brewery’s closure, the old Brewery site was completely re-developed and then re-opened in 2001 as a massive retail shopping complex called ironically “The Brewery”. However, down one side of the old Romford ‘High Street’ where the Brewery once stood, there remains a row of some the original factory buildings, which retain many of their original design features and fixtures & fittings. One of the old brewery buildings is now, quite fittingly, the home of the ‘Havering Museum’ (Havering being the London Borough in which Romford is situated).
In front of these buildings, there is a distinctive ‘hump’ in the road where the bridge across the River Rom was once situated – the river where the Brewery acquired its water supply from.
The Brewery’s ornate iron gates at one of the original entrances to the Brewery site are embellished with magnificent ‘hop & vine’ emblems.
Situated at what was once another entrance to the brewery (now the entrance to the shopping complex car-park), is a huge copper ‘brewing tun’ (a sort of large vat) once an integral part of the brewing manufacturing process – and now situated there as a historic landmark to commemorate just how important the Brewery once was, and the factory’s influence on the town of Romford during its 200 year tenure.
In the car-park of the now shopping complex, there stands a huge obelisk that reaches to the sky like a giant chimney that pays homage to the many large brewing chimneys that once stood on the original Brewery site.
Now – having completed a blog, I would normally trot off to a nearby pub for a couple of ‘cheeky’ beers – but obviously under the present global pandemic lockdown circumstances, that particular avenue of pleasure has been taken away from me, as all the pubs are closed.
However, what I did do was wander on up the road a little bit from the old Brewery site, to have a gander at the local landmark that is the famous and iconic ‘Golden Lion’ pub situated at the head of the Romford Market Square.
The ‘Golden Lion’ holds the amazing accolade of being one of the oldest pubs in continual use, in England.
Historic archives show that there has been an inn/tavern at its present site since 1440.
Throughout the 16th Century and beyond, the Golden Lion was a famous and popular coaching ‘halt’ (e.g. stopping-off point) on the main route between the City of London and Colchester in the east.
Most of the buildings structure today dates back to the 17th Century, although its frontage was re-built in the early Victorian era.
Inside the pub itself, a couple of the original wooden beams from the 17th Century are still in situ – and it is claimed that the building is haunted by 7 spirits – but I guess the only spirits you are likely to see in there are alcoholic ones (if the bloody place was open of course)
So – that concludes my little story about the old Romford Brewery, a topic right on my doorstep, literally a 15min walk from my home. Shame I couldn’t finish it off with the customary ‘cheeky’ one, but it is what it is, and it was good to get back out on-the-road and do something constructive – so I may publish a few more ‘local’ blogs whilst living in these strange times.
Stay safe everyone
Summarised below are the full range of photographs accompanying the ‘Romford Brewery’ blog